Animal activists top FBI terrorist list
May 19, 2005 - 10:54AM
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The FBI says the United States' top domestic terrorism threat is
environmental and animal rights activists who have turned to arson and
Some of the activists also target companies abroad who have policies they
Groups such as the Animal Liberation Front, the Earth Liberation Front and
the Britain-based SHAC, or Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, are "way out in
front" in terms of damage and number of crimes, said John Lewis, the FBI's
deputy assistant director for counterterrorism.
"There is nothing else going on in this country over the last several years
that is racking up the high number of violent crimes and terrorist actions,"
Animal Liberation Front says on its web site that its small, autonomous
groups of people take "direct action" against animal abuse by rescuing
animals and causing financial loss to animal exploiters, usually through
damage and destruction of property. Earth Liberation Front is an underground
movement with no public leadership, membership or spokesperson.
SHAC describes itself as a worldwide campaign that began in 1999 to rescue
animals tortured in research labs and shut down the businesses that rely on
their use. It says it "does not encourage or incite illegal activity".
Lewis said the FBI made its conclusions after analysing all types of cases
and comparing the groups with "right-wing extremists, KKK, anti-abortion
groups and the like". He said most animal rights and eco-extremists so far
have refrained from violence targeting human life.
"The FBI has observed troubling signs that this is changing. We have seen an
escalation in violent rhetoric and tactics," he told the Senate Environment
and Public Works Committee. "Attacks are also growing in frequency and
Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the panel's chairman, said he
hoped to examine more closely how the groups raise money and get
communications support from "mainstream activists," not directly blamed for
the violence, who are affiliated with tax-exempt organisations.
"Just like al-Qaeda or any other terrorist organisation, ELF and ALF cannot
accomplish their goals without money, membership and the media," Inhofe
The FBI said 35 of its offices have 150 open investigations, and activists
are claiming responsibility for 1,200 crimes between 1990 and mid-2004.
Investigators cite examples of people using arson, bombings, theft, release
of animals, vandalism, telephone harassment, letters rigged with razor
blades and office takeovers.
Such tactics have been used in what officials call "direct action" campaigns
to disrupt university research labs, restaurants, fur farms and logging
operations. Newer targets include SUV dealerships and new home developments
as signs of urban sprawl.
Officials say the incidents have caused more than $US110 million ($A144.7
million) in damage. The biggest so far was an arson fire at a five-story
condominium under construction in San Diego in August 2003 that caused $US50
million ($A65.77 million) in damage.
© 2005 AAP